Jan. 01--It was a great year to be in the stock market in 2013. For North Carolina's largest companies, it was even better.
Of the state's 50 biggest publicly traded companies by revenue, 43 finished the year with a higher stock price than they had at the end of 2012, according to an Observer analysis of Bloomberg data. Seven of them more than doubled in price.
Measured like an index, the 50 stocks increased by 28 percent. Looked at another way, if you had put $100 into each stock at the start of the year, you'd have earned a whopping 44 percent return, not including dividends.
Lowe's Cos., the Mooresville-based home improvement retailer, gained nearly 40 percent as a rebounding housing market led people to spend more on home renovations. Charlotte steelmaker Nucor Corp. gained 24 percent. Bank of America, the state's largest public company by revenue, remains below its 2006 peak, but it finished the year with a 34 percent increase as the Charlotte bank continued to cut costs and clear up legal issues.
North Carolina stocks mirrored the optimism of the broader market. Corporations kept posting strong profits, and monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve kept money flowing from bonds into stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average set record highs 52 times over the course of the year, cracking 15,000 and later 16,000 for the first time. The index gained more than 26 percent in 2013, its best performance since the mid-1990s.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, a broader measure of the stock market, gained nearly 30 percent.
"There was a lot to be happy about," said Judson Gee, managing partner of JHG Financial Advisors in Charlotte. After several years of worry about the strength of the economy and where the market would go, investors decided to take a look at corporate America's strong earnings, Gee said. And, he said, "the numbers are good."
To be sure, stock price appreciation is just one measure of how a company is faring. But the analysis provides a window into how investors viewed the health of North Carolina's largest companies over the past year.
It was also a banner year for IPOs in the state: At least 10 North Carolina companies went public in 2013. One of the largest, Charlotte-based Premier Inc., began trading on the Nasdaq exchange in September, raising more than $760 million. Durham-based pharmaceutical services company Quintiles, raised $947 million in May. The Observer's analysis does not include companies that went public in the past year.
Rebounds and records
North Carolina's top-performing stocks relied on new products, contracts or a significant rebound to outperform the market in a year where nearly everyone did well.
--Just three years removed from bankruptcy, Raleigh-based Xerium Technologies was the state's top performer, with the stock rising 441 percent. The company's restructuring plan and a major cost-cutting program appealed to investors. Xerium, which makes equipment used to produce paper, also announced it would build a new high-end plant near Shanghai.
--Raleigh's Salix Pharmaceuticals gained 122 percent on strong earnings for its drug that treats a liver disorder. The share price jumped in November when it announced it would buy a company that deals with medications for gastrointestinal issues.
--Wake Forest-based PowerSecure International jumped 120 percent. The company announced it had landed a contract to provide transmission infrastructure to an unnamed major utility that executives said would double the company's work volumes.
Nationwide, the year's hottest stocks came in the consumer discretionary category as rising home prices made people feel more wealthy, said Brian Rudisill, senior vice president of Novare Capital Management in Charlotte.
That lifted a range of companies, from Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. to apparel maker Hanesbrands both based in Winston-Salem; the two roughly doubled in price.